Monday, December 22, 2008

Tasty Tester Treats

I've been testing out recipes for a new vegan cookbook which I can't wait to be in print. This is my first time being an official tester and I have to say it is a lot of fun. It also makes me realize how much time, energy, and sometimes extra pounds all those great vegan cookbook authors put into every book. All the tester recipes I was given have been great, but I can't help but test them again and again just to make sure. I won't share anything about the dishes, but I'll let you know when you can go out and buy the cookbook and try them for yourselves!

Soba and Green Lentil Soup:A new favorite soup!

Chickpea Pancake with Rosemary:Don't let the dull picture fool you. This is something quick, easy, and tasty that you'll make over and over.

Two-Tomato Brunch Casserole:
This is amazing. Omnis will love it!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dear Santa,

Really I don't NEED anything this year. I am perfectly happy and content. I have three wonderful kids who keep me on my toes and teach me more about life than I ever thought possible, a big old messy lived in house next to a cute park which makes me feel close to my mother even though she's been gone for 6 years, a husband who loves me more than I will probably ever comprehend, great neighbors and friends (close by and far away, ones we talk to daily and ones we catch up with every few years), a crazy extended family which I love dearly and try not to take for granted, and really so much more than I can list here.


Okay, okay, if you really twist my arm, I could come up with a list. World peace and long happy healthy lives for me kids (heck, all kids). More? Well, if there really was a Santa here are some things I wouldn't mind having...after everyone in the world is fed (nutritious vegan food), clothed, sheltered, has quality health care, etc. and all the non-human animals were let out of slavery and allowed to live natural lives without being eaten, tested on, worn, abused, etc. by human animals. Humans would learn to live sustainable, peaceful lives...okay, you get the picture.

1. An outdoor wood pellet and corn furnace. Thanks for the heads up on these Thomasanna! They look great. If anyone out there has one, I would love to know how you like it.
2. Cast iron cookware (Lodge or recycled from an antique store). I have a small skillet and a humongous skillet, I need one in between, a double boiler, and really any cast iron stuff. I love to cook with cast iron.
3. A kitchen remodel. I know I've talked about this forever. We put our plans for a kitchen redo on hold because Rob's company was laying people off. Luckily, he was not laid off, but still...things are tight right now all over.
4. Oven mitts. I have been using the same ones for almost 20 years. I need new ones.
5. A gift basket (or cases of them dropped in my helicopter) of yummy foods which I feel are to extravagant right now to buy for no good reason. Organic pitted Kalamata olives (we used to live on these, but I've been trying to keep our food budget down so they are a once in a while food now), my favorite hot sauce (we aren't living without hot sauce, no sir, but I don't buy this these days), vegan chocolate chips (the $10/lb. ones from the co-op), Teese vegan cheese (I just want to try it), any organic frozen fruit, for the boys (okay, I might have one) organic peanut butter pretzels, organic almond butter (can't believe we used to buy this stuff by the case), and my liquid gold organic orange juice.
6. An inexpensive way to scan photos into the computer. While we are at it, all my digital pictures backup and safely saved.
7. New vegan cookbooks:
Vegan Fire and Spice (love Robin Robertson and would be happy with any of her cookbooks, but Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker is another one I don't have which comes to mind)
The Vegan Dad Cookbook (check it out, all you need is a printer)
Vegan Soul Kitchen (okay it isn't out quite yet, but keep it in mind for the future and I would also take Grub)

I'm not all about the getting Santa, here is some giving...

****It is that time of year again and here is my list from last year of worthy organizations which need your help. I know giving is hard when the economy is in the toilet, but that is when non-profits need help the most.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Classic Comfort Food

I realize winter hasn't officially started, but there is enough snow and cold in my part of the world to warrant comfort food. Not just any comfort food, but something with tater tots in it. Yes, I've sunk to a new nutritional low. I have fond tater tot memories and apparently so does Rob because he was eager for me to make this dish. The kids had no idea what a tater tot was, which makes me very happy. I tried to introduce tater tots (the organic kind, of course!) when Parker was little and he had zero interest and then I thought to myself "Do I really want my kid to like tater tots?" and the answer was "no" so I never tried again. Then eight years later, I was reading Lindy Loo's blog (she is a bad influence in a good way) and saw Upside-Down Shepherd's Pie from My Veggie Kitchen and I knew anti-tater tot or no, I had to make this. It was very good and Parker asked me to make it more often, but Dema was wary of the tater tots. I used olive oil instead of Earth Balance, 1/4 cup nutritional yeast because we all love the stuff, and omitted the soy milk by mistake, but it doesn't need it. I used the water from boiling the potatoes with vegan bouillon cubes to make the broth. This is a great way to use up veggies and we all agreed next time we could leave off the tater tots, but we are strange that way. Great cold weather casserole, I do recommend it.To go with the classic comfort food theme this week, I also made FatFree Vegan's Chili Mac recipe I've been eyeing for a while. It is definitely healthier than the shepherd's pie, but very good and hearty. I used whole wheat pasta and didn't have chipotle chili powder so we added a little hot sauce. Quick, easy, yummy, nutritious, and tastes great the next day if you have leftovers.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I heard an ambulance, Rob was supposed to be on his bike on his way home. I hear ambulances a lot on my street, but this one made me feel funny...not in a laughing way. I put my coat on and ran outside to see what happened. I was hoping it wasn't my husband being hit by a car. A couple neighbors were outside too and no one knew what was going on. Then I saw the orange light bouncing around on the house across our park. A fire! I didn't even know who's house it was at this point, but tears came to my eyes. I went closer to the house and could see it was our "twin" house. We have two white houses on the corner of our little neighborhood park and the other white house was on fire. I could see people still in the house, but as the realization set in maybe six fire trucks had quickly appeared. I had to go back inside to be with the kids, but I could tell things would be under much as a fire can be. We all watched from our windows and I went outside to see what was going on and talk to neighbors as much as the kids would allow. The smoke smell is so strong in our house, I can only imagine how bad it is for the house that is actually on fire. The sound of the crashing of windows has stopped...I hate that sound and assume it is the firefighters not the fire. It certainly brought out a lot of fire trucks. The houses are all older and very close together. It would be so easy for a fire to spread. Luckily, the wind is in our direction and we have a park between us and the house. The best case scenario for all neighboring houses. I hope everyone is okay.

Not a good year for Church St. in my town for fires.

12/17/08 Update: Here is the news story about the fire. Thanks to everyone who texted, called, emailed, etc. to see if we were okay. We went to another neighbor's party last night and even with all the fun (Santa Claus came and gave them gifts which is a new thing for them) they still had trouble getting to bed when we got home and this morning are talking non-stop about the fire. I'm just glad all the humans and furry animals are safe and so thankful the firefighters were so quick on the scene.

Odds and Ends

Josie wants to get in on the computer action so if she is awake, I am not on the computer except for very small spurts of time. She is also down to one nap a day and for some reason it is usually while we are out and about and if she is napping at home, I use that time to spend some quality time with the boys doing things which are hard to do while she is awake (like play board games, read long books, etc.), thus no quality computer time for me these days. No complaints from me, but I will say that I blog in my head daily, but sadly it will probably not ever get set into pixels for all to see. This time is fleeting and I'm happy to have less "me" time and more "family" time right now.On top of all that, most of you know my business website went down a few months ago and it turned out to be bittersweet. I have to enter ALL my products again (I still have a couple hundred entries to go!), but I like my new website much better (especially since I finally have my logo on the site which was created by Rainer-Media Group a few years ago...I know, I can't believe it took me so long to get it up on the site). This just means that any time I am at the computer, I am trying to get another product entered before the boys ask to use the computer or Josie comes up and starts pounding away or gives me that little look she has and lunges for the switch on my power strip. Oh how she giggles at my anguish when she turns off the power to my computer before I have saved my work. Luckily, my ole iMac is very forgiving.

I have taken a few food pics over the last couple of months so here are some odds and ends in no particular order whatsoever. It makes me feel better that the pictures (as bad as some of them are) were not taken in vain and it may inspire some vegan cooking out there.

We had a very low key Thanksgiving this year. I made several soups and we had a little open house. Friends, family, and neighbors stopped by anytime during the day and had some hot soup and bread while we caught up. I have a couple friends who fast for Thanksgiving and think of the native peoples who were killed and displaced by the Europeans who came to this land. I thought a simple meal of soup and some family discussion was what we needed this year. We've been studying US history this year in homeschool so the kids have been asking lots of questions and reading lots of books about the early US and the native peoples who lived on this land before we brutally took it from them.
Top left to bottom: Thanksgiving soups: French Lentil Soup with Tarragon and Thyme from Veganomicon, Black Bean and Butternut Squash Chili from Vegan Planet, African Sweet Potato and Peanut Stew from Vegan Planet. This is a picture while I still had to use my iPhone for photos. Really everything was quite tasty. I didn't have apple juice so I subbed orange juice concentrate in the Black Bean and Butternut Squash Chili (it wasn't butternut either, but another kind of squash which I don't remember now which we received free from our friends Kit and Emily at a wonderful harvest celebration/bonfire at The Great Pumpkin Patch where we learned from Steph how to roast bananas and chocolate instead of s'mores for which I will be forever grateful). I used the rest of this unknown type of squash in the African Sweet Potato and Peanut Stew instead of sweet potatoes and I added spinach because I like greens, especially in an African stew. All our visitors left full and they enjoyed trying each of the soups. As the evening progressed I made the Chocolate Chip Cookies from Vegan with a Vengeance (no picture, sorry). I don't make chocolate chip cookies often because they just seem so completely void of nutrition, but it was Thanksgiving after all and Rob was off at a movie and there was a lull in the visitors so I thought "why not?". I was surprised because the dough was very, very dry and I didn't have time to search blogs to see what others had experienced so I went on and they were good, but I would add more liquid next time. Gita and her family came over as the cookies were baking so I decided not to stress about the dough and enjoyed the company. It was nice to have a relaxing day.
I've blogged about Vegan Dad's Peanut Tempeh with Noodles before as Sunbutter Tempeh with Noodles, but here I go again. I never make this the same way twice. Above it is with udon noodles and some vegan frozen meatballs someone gave us a while back. Parker was suspicious of the "meatballs" although I assured him they were vegan he wouldn't eat them, but Dema ate Parker's share.
Here is is again, but I made the tempeh into Vegan with a Vengeance Tempeh Sausage Crumbles before adding it to rice noodles. This is Dema's dish with hot sauce on top.One of my favorite chili recipes is Cashew Chili from The Best of Bloodroot Volume Two. I don't make it enough, but when I do, I'm always happy. Chili should always have cashews and raisins in it. This time I didn't have the ingredients for homemade cornbread so I found a long lost Bob's Mill cornbread mix I found in the back of the cupboard.I made the Raspberry-Chocolate Chip Blondie Bars from Vegan with a Vengeance for a dinner at Gita and Seth's before the holidays. Our friends Matthew and Sandra made these for a party at our old house years ago before they moved to Portland and I still remembered them fondly. I didn't, however, remember what they looked like. I was so thankful to have blogs to look at when it came to the top. I thought it was supposed to completely cover the pan, but it so obviously was not going to and I almost whipped up some more dough. Instead, I checked out some blogs and the pictures helped me figure out what it was supposed to look like. Oh how I love vegan food blogs. This is another one of those desserts which really has no nutritional value, but Dema has been asking for me to make more blondies for weeks. I'll have to break down and make some for Christmas.Homemade black bean burritos. Burritos are so much better at home. This one is on a sprouted grain tortilla with black beans, sauteed sweet peppers, salsa with corn, and avocado. Yum!Here is another fast and yummy family favorite. Whole wheat pasta with Esme Sauce, peas, and Crunchies. I've blogged about it many times before and I have several friends who are now also addicted to his sauce...the simple stuff is the best.Pureed Curried Squash and Yam Soup from The Everyday Vegan (I have two cookbooks by this name, this time it is Dreena Burton's) topped with a couple drops of hot sauce and crunchies. I made this with more squash from The Great Pumpkin Patch and it was super yummy. Give me an orange soup this time of year and I'm in heaven.On my birthday last month, my uncle Frank (mom's brother), my grandfather Clifford (mom's dad), my mom's cousin Nancy (she's my cousin too, but I always forget if she is once removed or a second cousin, but I love her and always enjoy her visits), my brother Jim and his girlfriend Carol (they live in town, but we don't get to see them often so it was a present to have them over!), my sister Karen and her boyfriend Stuart, and my dad all came over. Stuart took the picture so he isn't in the photo. I should have had Rob take the picture since he was already in his soccer uniform running out to play his last game of the season. Feel the love, people, feel the love. I made lunch and we visited. It just happened to be my wasn't planned that way. My uncle offered to bring over my grandfather since they live a couple hours away and I love to see them. Nancy was going to go visit my grandfather and found out he was going to be at our house so she drove a couple hours to our place instead. It worked out beautifully for me because I can't think of anything better than cooking and having a house full of people I love on my birthday. My grandfather recently moved into a nursing home and my uncle is cleaning out his house. My grandfather used to fix furniture for people and has lots of furniture accumulated from many family members over the years. The resting place for a lot of this furniture is my house. I'm happy to have things around me which are probably not worth much as antiques, but are useful and belonged to a great, great grandparent or a bachelor great uncle. This time they brought a piece of furniture with shelves and doors which I quickly decided would be a great new home for my cookbooks. It is nice to have them all alphabetized and in one place. Yay! Another great birthday gift! Having all of them neatly in my living room has inspired me to crack open a few cookbooks I haven't look at in a while. It is like reconnecting with old friends which is another reason I don't have as much time to blog...I've become addicted to Facebook, but that is perhaps a post for another time. Whew, I guess you are all caught up.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

All She Wants to Do is Cook

Josie is a little singer and dancer. I need to get some video of her before she hits a shy phase. Right up there with her music love is her love to help me cook (and eat, of course). All I seem to want to do lately is cook so we are happy spending our days in the kitchen. The guys are right there too, helping, and eating. We even had a neighbor friend eat three bowls of one of the soups I made. I may not get the house clean, bills paid, clothes folded, or anything else I really need to do, but I'll make some tasty food.
Today's lunch was French Lentil Soup with Tarragon and Thyme from Vegan with a Vengeance with mashed potatoes. I didn't want Rob to miss out because this lentil soup is his second fave soup so I served what was left for dinner. Parker had his on top of his mashed potatoes for dinner. I made my fave, Carrot Bisque, also from Vegan with a Vengeance. I like mine over quinoa. Since I had a house full of boys this afternoon, I decided to get away from the noise and keep Josie safe from the running so we made The Best Pumpkin Muffins from, you guessed it, VwaV. I threw the remaining pumpkin from the muffins into the bisque which is a great way to use up pumpkin. These muffins are good, but have tons more sugar than the Carrot-Raisin Muffins so I won't make them often.
It was all fun, simple, and warming on this cold day. After dinner all I wanted to do was go back into the kitchen and cook some more.